End is near for Cal Poly Pomona’s futuristic CLA tower – San Bernardino Sun

I was driving the 10 Freeway down Kellogg Hill on Saturday when something became noticeable to me by its absence. Cal Poly Pomona’s CLA Building could — uh-oh — no longer be seen.

The tower was coming down, I knew. It was in all the papers. My colleague Javier Rojas wrote the news version in April. My counterpart in our San Gabriel Valley papers, Larry Wilson, opined on it in June.

That didn’t mean I was quite prepared for the CLA — short for Classroom, Laboratory and Administration — not to be there. The eight-story obelisk had been visible from the 10 and 57 freeways since its 1993 opening.

Surely you’ve noticed it. The CLA was a limestone-clad tower with a steeply sloping roof, and then an open pyramid atop that, jutting toward the heavens. “Vaguely menacing,” Larry rightly called it, and various movies and commercial shoots took advantage of its somewhat-chilling atmosphere.

Anyway, it’s not as if I make a point of looking for the pointy building. Sometimes it would catch my eye, sometimes it would slip by me. Something this time caused me to look.

I drove out to the campus on Sunday. Virtually no one was around, which is how I like it. And no need to pay for parking.

The CLA Building was in mid-deconstruction, like the Death Star in reverse, and considerably shorter than before. All the lower floors were standing, but the top floors had been lopped off.

The pointy building had lost its point. Oh, the humanity.

In a practical sense, the CLA had lost its point years ago. Modern landmark though it was, the $24 million tower was plagued by structural and mechanical problems. The university sued and won a $13 million settlement against the contractor.

As if that weren’t enough, the CLA was discovered to have been built atop — oops — an active earthquake fault.

A Poly Post headline from 2018 says it all: “Doomed from the start: The CLA building.”

Everyone cleared out 2018. The tower sat empty ever since. CLA might be an acronym for Cursed, Loved, Abandoned. But was it loved? If so, that seems long over. Few students around today had ever been inside.

I’d been inside a few times. It was a normal, unremarkable university setting. About all I remember is that the windows were numerous but small. You’d think the building would have made more of an impression. Perhaps the aliens wiped away my other memories.

In the CLA’s first decade, Hollywood trained its cameras on the unusual exterior.

“It’s been a visually unique part of the campus for years,” reflects Charles Bentley, a former Cal Poly spokesman who worked in the CLA from 1999-2003, “and during its time attracted quite a few location managers from film, TV, commercials and print advertisements.”

Three science fiction thrillers, “Gattaca” (1997), “Impostor” (2001) and NBC’s version of “Brave New World” (1998), used the tower as a backdrop for their dystopian futures. The Poly Post adds another to the list: 1993’s “Reverse Heaven,” which later got the less subtle title “Heaven and Hell.” I don’t know which locale the CLA played, but I can guess.

Notice how old those credits are. These days I suppose they just CGI this stuff. No need for pointy buildings out in the wild.

Vaguely menacing the CLA may have been, but get a load of this: Architect Antoine Predock went on to design San Diego’s Petco Park, the Padres’ ultra-charming ballpark. The guy has range.

I last saw the CLA in December on a visit to campus. As an inveterate stair climber, I couldn’t resist striding up and down the 30-plus exterior steps a couple of times just for the exercise, knowing it was likely the last time I’d ever have the chance.

With the CLA deemed unsalvageable, the state eventually coughed up money for demolition, which is what’s going on now. The interior was gutted in May and the rest of the structure should be gone before students return.

What will replace it? Green space. That will join the Japanese garden that’s been there all along, which I wasn’t even aware of. Pains are being taken to protect it during demolition.

A garden sounds nice. It beats salting the earth to remove the CLA’s curse.

Nearby is the university’s Student Services Building, the 2019 replacement for the CLA’s functions. It’s got a triangular shape, an undulating roof (a building nickname is “the Pringle”) and a tunnel-like atrium between the two wings.

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